What's up with Metro Transit?


What’s up with Metro Transit? On Thursday, a Metro Transit bus hit a female biker at around 11 a.m., causing her legs to snap and pop as the wheels rolled over her thighs, according to a witness interviewed by the University of Minnesota’s student newspaper. Metro Transit safety and transportation divisions, as well as Metro Transit police, are still investigating the incident to sort out the details.

The student paper reported that Caitlin Arnett, a sophomore at the U, was in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center Friday.

Metro Transit said the victim was 20 years old and from Wisconsin. Arnett was in the street next to a southbound bus on 10th Avenue SE near University Ave. Both the bus and the biker were waiting to travel forward at a red light. When they did, the bus hit the biker and rolled its rear wheels over at least one of her legs, resulting in serious injuries, according to Bob Gibbons, Metro Transit spokesman.

About 12 hours later, the tables turned as a rowdy teenager aboard a different bus punched a Metro Transit driver in the right eye. The incident occurred as the bus traveled in the Washington and Cedar area. After the punch, the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a light pole. The bus sustained major damage, Gibbons said. The drivers of both buses are on paid administrative leave.

“Our training of drivers calls for extreme care when operating buses around bicycles," Gibbons said. The investigation into the struck biker will involve "whether the bus operator exhibited extreme care."

Isn’t public transportation supposed to be a safe, environmentally-friendly alternative to solo commuting? The assault on the driver may be just a bizarre blip, but if the biker-bus accident is any indication, Metro Transit needs to crank up its safety training. Gibbons said that new drivers go through background checks as well as a six-week safe driving program. They must also hold a commercial driver's license and their personal driving records are reviewed each time they renew their commercial licenses, Gibbons said. But after this incident, Met Council should investigate whether its budget includes ample allocation for safety training for those behind the wheel, and whether its driving record checks are sufficient.

The bus system is facing financial challenges -- fares went up 25 cents Oct. 1, to $1.75 in non-rush traffic and $2.25 during rush hour -- to cover increased fuel rates and lower revenue from state vehicle licensing fees. Another 50-cent increase could come as soon as next year. But a review of safety procedures is needed to keep riders feeling safe. Sadly, it is too late for the 20-year-old from Wisconsin. Metro Transit may soon have a much bigger headache on its hands than the rising price of gas -- like maybe a huge lawsuit.